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Rail employee reassigned to eastern Turkey for possessing Demirtaş’s book

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Turkish State Railways (TCDD) reassigned an officer to a post in eastern Turkey after his superior told the police he possessed a book authored by jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş, local media reported on Thursday, citing a column by journalist İsmail Saymaz on the Halk TV news website.

Demirtaş, a former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was arrested on Nov. 4, 2016 on terrorism-related charges and has remained in prison since then, despite two European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings in 2018 and 2020 that said Demirtaş was imprisoned for “political” reasons and not for “legal” reasons, ordering his “immediate release.”

According to Saymaz, a lawyer working as a legal consultant for the TCDD in western İzmir province who is identified only by the initials İ.K. was reported to the police by his superior officer, E.K., on Sept. 22 for allegedly possessing prohibited publications. E.K. said he found a book titled “Leylan” that Demirtaş authored from behind bars in the drawer of İ.K.’s desk.

“Leylan” is a novel Demirtaş dedicated to his wife, Başak, and their two daughters.

According to Saymaz, police took no action since there hadn’t been an order to pull “Leylan,” which was published in 2020, off the shelves in Turkey. For same reason, prosecutors hadn’t found it necessary to launch an investigation into İ.K.

The lawyer, who argues that he doesn’t own the book, also filed a complaint against his superior on charges of illegally obtaining personal information in addition to insult and slander. İ.K. also submitted an application to the İzmir Bar Association and requested that they take disciplinary action against E.K.

Saymaz further said that his superior also filed a complaint about İ.K. with the TCDD, which in turn started an administrative investigation into him, and as a result, reassigned him to a post in eastern Malatya province on Wednesday.

Since a coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016, a growing number of books have been outlawed and confiscated, with some even considered evidence of certain crimes, which has led to concern among publishers, authors and the general public.

According to Turkish publishers, at least 30 publishing houses have been closed by government decrees in the post-coup era, while more than 670 books have been confiscated for allegedly disseminating the “propaganda of a terrorist organization.”

Another 135,000 books have been banned from public libraries on the same or similar grounds.

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